Ethical Eating and Food Justice

Earth Day Banner 2010If you walk into an average supermarket these days, you’ll find thousands of choices of things to eat. Some things may be grown or produced in low-impact ways at a nearby farm, but chances are that many items for sale contain ingredients whose production has negatively impacted the Earth and her people. As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to living in ways that respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people as well as the interdependent web of life of which we are a part. With so many choices, how can we find ways to eat ethically?

Fortunately, people all over the United States are thinking about just this right now. Several best-selling books have been written about authors’ deliberations about what to eat, and UU congregations have been engaging in the current Congregational Study/Action Issue, "Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice."

Our website section for Earth Day 2010 is all about Ethical Eating and Food Justice—a lot of great information gathered here for you to explore and use. Update: for Earth Day 2014, we developed an action module on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, which delves even deeper into the justice issues.

Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice was approved as a Statement of Conscience at the 2011 General Assembly. Here’s a short summary of the vote on the statement.

This topic was presented and adopted as a Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) at the 2008 General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale. The CSAI Core Team, led by Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh, published a comprehensive Resource Guide and a Worship Resources Supplement for congregations to use in exploring the hidden ways our food choices impact our communities and our world. As stated in the Guide, “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice is personal in nature – involving our free choices of what we put in our own bodies – and global in reach – with implications for ecosystems, human hunger, social inequity, animal welfare, and climate change.” The Ethical Eating CSAI was an invitation for congregations and districts to take this topic and confront it, reflect on it, learn about it, respond to it, comment on it, and take action—each in their own way.

Following the passage of the Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating at General Assembly 2011, the Ethical Eating Core Team along with some new members was appointed as the UUA President's Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating. Check out the new Ethical Eating website (note: this website is no longer available) which contains much of the information in the original Ethical Eating Study Guide and Worship Resources Supplement used by congregations during the CSAI phase.

In 2013, PACE (President's Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating) joined foices with UUSC to focus on environmental justice and food workers' rights. To honor these workers the kick-off of the compaign is May 1, International Workers Day. 

The Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) has two excellent discussion courses to support congregations in their ethical eating activities. Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability both include many resources and ideas for action projects.